Whenever I write a column putting my own spin on the abbreviation “USA”, I often proffer that it actually stands for (the) “United States of Amnesia”. This leads -at times- to responses from some readers who claim that I am being disrespectful towards the country in which I have been residing for the past forty-three consecutive years. They are wrong. I am simply expressing my observations steeped in numerous truths. To wit: that too many Caucasians living in these “not-united states” tend to display a high degree of amnesia when it comes to issues of race; wherein, in this country, caucasians (whites) treat negroes (blacks), and native-Americans (the aboriginal Indians), and Hispanics (some call them “Latinos”), and other non-white groups, in horribly inhumane, and sometimes even deadly ways. It has been continuous from the day the Mayflower landed. It has been skillfully woven -over four centuries- into both the Caucasian psyche and the very basic fabric of “Americana”; with too little generic remorse from far too many whites. And it has evolved from a “white-supremacy” mindset, which originated in Europe way back in the day.
If in this minute, you are considering that “Cousin Rocky” has finally gone off his rockers, then may I suggest a crash course in “colonialism” (Euro-style). And while you are at it, also do crash courses in these areas: “mercantilism”, “capitalism”, and “negro slavery thru the nineteenth century”.
Let me preface this column by saying for the umpteenth time: “truth by its very nature is often quite controversial”. Generally, when things get testy, truth is usually the first casualty in many a dispute or disagreement. Humans lie. They lie a lot. They usually lie when their asses are on the line. The harsher the consequences being faced the craftier the mendacity. On too many fronts, Americans have been living with lies for far too many years. It has to stop one day, otherwise we will destroy ourselves. Otherwise we will wake up one morning only to encounter a race-war. Not just some spontaneous protest -or organized waves of protests- but a full-blown race-war: worse than the Civil War of 1861-65.
Let me make this observation/conclusion public: in my estimation, most whites aren’t racist. I suspect the white-racists in our midst number around a quarter of the total white population (or slightly less). And I say this after nearly a half-century of personal observation while living here; strenuous and voracious reading and studying; a mixture of analysis and evaluation of polls and surveys; evaluating documents on the subject; reading the findings of commissions of inquiry, and other instruments of social-science with its technique(s) for information gathering; plus countless hours of human interaction; plus a tremendous number of hours trying to be a forensic historian.
I know this isn’t scientific, but it’s my honest opinion. With all that in mind however; and throughout American history; that racist quarter of the white population here, have surely made the other 75 per cent look bad: real bad. And that’s because there are too many cowards within the ranks of those “seventy-five-percenters”. Horrible things happen when good people stay silent in the face of wrong-doing.
You want to know why so many whites are cowardly: well, let me tell you. It is something similar to what is happening in police departments all over the country. Too many people refuse to see the bigger picture. They evaluate real issues in very narrow, singular, self-centered and insular ways. You see; in the USA and “todo el mundo” (all over the world), white/light skin delivers certain unique perquisites. Membership in the Caucasian race surely has its privileges. Here is the “root of the root, in a tree called the reality of life”: too many caucasians vehemently deny that white-skin has significant universal benefits in every single area of human endeavor, when compared to non-whites. Too many prefer to stay silent and quietly reap some of these benefits of having light skin; while knowing fully well that these advantages are unfair and unjust; especially in the realm of economics.
One of the reasons for this pervasive white-denial is subsumed in a narcissistic desire to maintain their phony subscription to the mantra that “all men are created equal”: as some sort of philosophical or moral high perch on which they try to hang there cerebral hats. And if you don’t believe this, then explain to me how the founding fathers (many of whom owned slaves) could cloak their constitution -which on some levels attempted to justify their treason- in so many idealistic terms. And they did this while simultaneously proposing that Negroes be counted only as part-human. They all ratified a document that helped take the inhumanity of slavery to more subtle forms of indecency, brutality, oppression, immorality and the like.
In this country, a first-cousin of “lying” survives and thrives. That first-cousin’s name is: “hypocrisy”. I posit that the founding fathers were a bunch of friggin hypocrites. Yes; there were some great men amongst the bunch -with tremendous personal accomplishments on their resumes- but collectively: they were all hypocrites. Individually; maybe Benjamin Franklin was a possible exception; maybe.
All this brings me to this column.
And as I start this column it has been ninety-five hours since an unarmed black man was shot to death by a white cop in Tulsa, Oklahoma: “another one bit the dust”. Videos from the sordid event show that he (Terence Crutcher) had both hands in the air in a sign of surrender. Word on the street is that the white female officer, who shot him, claimed that she felt he was reaching into his car window (for a weapon or something). Problem with that is this: videos recorded by their very own officers, show that the car-window was closed. There is no evidence of Crutcher doing anything illegal. Well; nothing beyond maybe not complying with certain orders in a timely manner. News reports so far, shows that nothing has emerged to suggest that he did anything illegal enough to warrant his demise.
Let me go further.
As I start this column it has been ninety five years since hundreds of black men (and women) were murdered by whites in the same city; and in the famous words of sports-philosopher Yogi Berra: “it’s de-ja-vu all over again”. And after all the changes, things are still more or less the same.
Go on the internet and look up “Tulsa; Oklahoma (May 30th thru June 1st, in the year of 1921)”. In the past, whenever I ventured into this event during some of my political science lectures, many a white student would be visibly upset since they knew nothing about it singulair asthma. A few actually challenged my veracity. And as I have said umpteen times over the years: “truth by its very nature is controversial”.
The events that transpired over those three days, in a district known as Greenwood, in the city of Tulsa, in the state of Oklahoma, back in 1921, is just one of thousands of historical facts deliberately buried by those white-gatekeepers of the history generally taught in public schools. Look up “Rosewood, Florida: 1923” while you are doing this research assignment. I am certain that many of those right-wing-whites (usually registered “republicans”) who just love to wave that “confederate flag” at public events, would be embarrassed beyond belief, were one-tenth of their ancestor’s inhumane actions, to be enumerated and elaborated on, for the world to see, hear and read.
The only thing new about police-misconduct today is this: with the advent of exploding communication-technologies, exposure of their pervasive and prolific bad-behavior, has been captured on film by John Legend’s “ordinary people”. Those apologists who have stubbornly resisted objectively evaluating the billions of complaints over centuries, from those (especially non-white) who bravely spoke out against the immorality, the inhumanity, the lying, the brutality, the framing, the thievery, the injustice(s), the terror, and sometimes the outright murder, et al, that have been committed over centuries; are suddenly forced to stop in their tracks and rethink everything the held sacred about law-enforcement officials. Why? Because of a preponderance of visual evidence; that’s why.
Every time you turn around nowadays, someone somewhere in this country has captured on film, very questionable actions of police-officers, when film is compared to physical or verbal reports officially filed. Consider this folks: if there weren’t cell-phone cameras and other types of sight and sound-recording-devices , could you imagine how many of these cops will have gotten away scot free with the crimes they committed. Well consider this further: long before cell-phones and other such devices were common place, thousands of cops did just that: “get away with murder”.
Let me give you a synopsis of what transpired in Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, back in 1921. It was a Monday (Memorial Day). A young white female alleged that a young black man -who she knew on a personal level- behaved indecently in an elevator. Law enforcement officials arrested this young man. They took him to a police precinct. There are conflicting views on what actually transpired when these two young adults encountered each other in that elevator; and I said before: “truth is usually the first casualty” in these types of conflict.
Let me go a little further back in history. Oklahoma was granted statehood on November 16th, 1907. Many blacks had moved there from the South after the Civil War. This was done mainly because many of those rebellious-whites, who had lost the war, were openly seeking reprisals and terrorizing blacks like nobody’s business. Lynchings were common place. The “Klu Klux Klan” was in full bloom. Whites would have “picnics” wherein they would “pick” a “nigger”to lynch, while scores of whites (men, women and children included) will watch and cheer. Law-enforcement figures were openly complicit in many of these atrocities.
Going further back, we will find that in 1919, in a town called Elaine, in the state of Arkansas, close to three hundred black sharecroppers were slaughtered by whites just because they attempted to organize themselves and protest the exploitation of white landowners. The unofficial count goes as high as eight hundred dead blacks. This happened because the local sheriff (Frank Kitchens), in attempting to prevent the organization from taking further roots, deputized a large number of white men (forming a quasi-militia). This group systematically went about the carnage, by roaming the area and killing blacks on sight, for at least three whole days. Eventually, the governor sent in federal troops.
Not a single white man was charged in this massacre. Less than half a dozen whites were killed by those trying to defend themselves. One hundred and twenty two blacks were arrested. Seventy three of those were charged with murder. Many were convicted. Some convictions were overturned in appeal. If you research this topic you will be fascinated by the legal struggles of those blacks who were incarcerated. You will be pained by the illegalities, excesses and abuses by white law-enforcement officials, and many whites employed within the justice system. Even the US Supreme Court had to eventually weigh in on this debacle.
Now back to Oklahoma two years later. In the section of Tulsa, called Greenwood, blacks had managed -despite tremendous odds against them- to develop a thriving community of merchants, skills-men, tradesmen and professionals. Black-owned businesses were blooming. It was called the “Black Wall Street”. It was probably the wealthiest predominantly-black community ever developed by blacks mainly, in the history of this nation. Unemployment here was almost non-existent. Blacks were -in general- quite industrious and prosperous. They had developed schools, churches, medical facilities, stores and other thriving business entities, unparalleled by any other black community then. Expectedly, there was white-resentment from neighboring communities where caucasians were somewhat baffled at the successes of these “niggahs”in the post-World War 1 era.
When a rumor spread in the black community that the young man who was arrested that Memorial Day back in 1921, would be lynched without a fair trial; blacks gathered by the score(s) outside the police precinct. It is alleged that their collective-intention was to set him free. Word spread in surrounding white communities, and thus a match was lit to an already volatile situation. Rioting ensued. Shooting, pillaging and terror reigned for at least two days. When the smoke cleared, you will find that the black population took a heavy toll in vastly disproportionate ways.
Law enforcement officials -who were predominantly white- sided with the white aggressors of course. It was probably the first time in this country’s history wherein local government officials decided to drop bombs on black civilians. It wasn’t the last time. Go research what happened to the “MOVE “people in 1985; back in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In that event 11 blacks were killed by law-enforcement officials. Sixty five black-owned homes were destroyed by fire-bombing also.
In the 1921 Tulsa riots, thousands of black residents were detained by law-enforcement officials; and just like in Elaine, Arkansas, there is no official record of even a single white person being arrested, charged or prosecuted: not one. Some estimates say that over a thousand blacks were killed; others say that thousands of blacks were injured back there. We know for a fact that hundreds of black-owned businesses were burned to the ground. We also know that thousands of black-owned homes were destroyed. In 2001, the Tulsa Race Riot Commission recommended reparations for blacks who were survivors of this event. They also recommended compensation for descendants of those blacks who were wronged by this cataclysm. It took eighty years for some semblance of justice to prevail.
What too many citizens here refuse to digest is the fact that too many “Tulsas”, “Rosewoods” and “Elaines” have occurred all across this nation’s physical land-mass, and also across its “true” history. It’s time for the history books to reflect the savagery of slavery, “Jim Crow” and also “white-racism”. It’s time for this nation to deal with white-skin privilege and its zillion slights, stings, jabs, stabs, hurts and wounds, which are routinely inflicted on non-whites daily.
How quickly do we forget that it was law-enforcement officials who tracked down runaway slaves and brought them back to death or worse (yes!!). The same white cops who routinely assassinate blacks nowadays, oversaw black slaves having their limbs removed for as simple a thing as trying to learn to read the Bible, or for learning to write English. Back in the day -in more US cities than you can imagine- Negroes couldn’t even go to public schools without whites blocking the entrance(s) with guns and other intimidating weapons. Forget voting or trying to register to vote. As a black male, you better not look at a white female in any way(s) that could be interpreted at covetous (go research “Emmitt Till”). You rode in the back of the bus. Even right here in New York, city cops enforced racist laws in an unjust and unequal system. Although a lot has changed, some things still remain. Look up Elizabeth Jennings while you research. That’s another fascinating story for your personal political and historical edification. A story more fascinating than the story of Rosa Parks even: and about 100 years earlier.
How quickly do we try to forget that the descendants of these very white-racists of past years still live today: too many with the same anachronistically vile world-views on race, akin to those views their forefathers propagated. Too many of them are filling the ranks of law-enforcement-officials all over the country; too many of whom listen to the Bill O’Reillys and Sean Hannitys of the media world. Two of many whose shallow-analysis on race matters often hurt more than help; and who command large audiences nationwide. There are too many law-enforcement officials who are just plain un-educated and poorly trained. Too many of them are simply devoid of compassion. Get back to my “Fergusson” column folks: same old, same old.
Let me close out by repeating something I have stated many times in the past. Racism isn’t the only factor behind continuous police-misconduct. Ostensibly, something happens to the brain(s) of individual men and women, when they join armies, navies, air-forces, militias, police-forces, legitimized security forces, and the like: and this is a universal phenomenon. Psychologists and psychiatrists should be doing overtime trying to figure why too many in this ilk seem to be corrupted by whatever little power is placed in their hands. Quelle dommage!
Stay tuned-in folks. I’m not finished yet.